This morning at my church there was a special Earth Day observance, beginning with a film before the service titled The Story of Stuff. The film stopped running halfway through, so we only discussed the first part of it, but people discussed their concerns about our planet and all the indignities it suffers. Some people shared ideas of what we could do to cut down on waste and pollution. One woman said she always carried a special plate and fork in a plastic bag in her car so she had it handy at potluck dinners. She got a round of applause. A man said the whole problem was the political party in power and that they were all war criminals and everybody should vote them out. He got some nods of approval, but he soon left as if he was too disgusted to stay with people too dumb to get it. A woman said she bought everything at resale shops and she highly recommended it. Somebody else gave a web site where you could find people who wanted your old junk and also find somebody else’s old junk for yourself. She got a round of applause too. A man suggested one day out of the month when everybody returned everything they’d bought in the last few months that no longer worked. Just take it back to WalMart or wherever and stand in line and say, “I don’t want my money back, I just want you to take this and get rid of it.” People laughed at that. Finally a woman said what everybody else was thinking, that the problem was so monumental and so daunting that anything we did was like spitting in the ocean. Everybody agreed, but also agreed that we had to do whatever we could, even if it was only growing our own radishes and taking cloth carry-out bags to the grocery to replace plastic.
It was time for church then, so we shifted to the sanctuary where the choir sang a song about the earth while little children came in and tossed up big blue balloons that represented the globe. The congregation kept the balloons in the air, which tickled the kids no end and sent them scurrying up and down the aisles to catch any that fell to the floor. After that ended, there was the usual greet-your-neighbor business and a time for people to share their joys and sorrows and announcements. One man asked for prayers for his sister who had just been diagnosed with leukemia, a woman asked for prayers for friends having difficulties. Then a man said he’d stopped on the way to church to pick up a turtle crossing the road, and as he carried it the turtle had peed on his leg. He thought there was a moral: every good act carries possible consequences, and always point the business end of a turtle away from you.
Before the sermon, three middle-aged women wearing long white dresses danced with blue streamers in their hands. They weren’t terribly graceful but they were grave and intent, so it was sweet to watch. The sermon was titled “Immaculate Consumption” and the minister talked about how we might make our lives easier and more fulfilling if we didn’t constantly try to have more, buy more, be more.
After the service, I came home, ate lunch, read the Sunday papers. I didn’t think about book promotion or book plots or book signings, I just ate and read and enjoyed the afternoon. I’m going to get a cloth grocery bag, too, and be more thoughtful about how I add to pollution and waste and a throw-away society.
And if I pick up a turtle in danger of being smashed by a car, I will turn its business end the other way.